PRINT December 1995

Jeff Weinstein


In our parlous and decentralized time, every year fastens on past years it considers worst and best. What was 1995’s most favored vintage? The multifarious judges hand us the envelope, and the winner’s an annoying tie: 1976 and 1937. No secret about the Spirit of ’76: it’s ABBA, using the conduit of Australian pop cult via a trio of wandering drag queens and a Ricki Lake de nos jours to consolidate a long-anticipated phenomenon we are pleased to call “heterosexual camp.” Its signifying image? A worldwide sports cable program celebrating the 100th anniversary of Australian rules football (or “footie”), in which hundreds of bouncy young women covered the field and synchronically strutted their stuff to “Dancing Queen.” Universal applause! In 1976, we recall, the killing fields of Vietnam could at last be put aside, letting things get back to disco normal.

But the frivolous, fringy clothes of 1976 simply would not do, so back the judges went to an older vestige of luxury, the 1937 DRAPED MALE SUIT, using yards of the best worsted to indicate the inherent elegance of masculine power. Doesn’t Ralph Lauren’s suppressed waist of 1995 wittily emphasize the increasing acceptability of suppression? Continuing along in 1937 terms, why should the Spanish Civil War, or any petty balkanized conflict, concern us? We have enough to worry about, dressed as we are. Which is why Ken Loach’s newest film, Land and Freedom, about that prewar war, rubs the futility of our past social idealism in our present collective face.


For the same reason, the judges were unanimous in their selection of 1969 as the year most despised by 1995. IDEALISM, HA! Liberation, bah! What selfish foolishness, women’s liberation; what sick exhibitionism, gay liberation; what reverse bigotry, racial liberation. All have permanently undermined our growth, our unity, our strength. If we must march, we’ll march not to the strains of John Lennon, but to John Philip Sousa, to John Tesh.

Odds are good that 1969 will win again in this category next year.

Jeff Weinstein was formerly the art-criticism editor and restaurant critic of The Village Voice, New York.